Unpaid Wages

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Should You Contact An Attorney For An Unpaid Wages Lawsuit?

Wage and hour law refers to payment, including overtime, rest breaks and meal breaks. Unfortunately, some employers try to increase their profit margin by misclassifying employees or encouraging them to work off the clock. If your employer has violated the minimum wages law, contact a wage and hour attorney at the Hanrahan Firm in San Diego.

An overtime lawyer will fight employers who have shown a failure to pay and will go after unpaid earnings and commissions that are due to employees. Employees are encouraged to keep meticulous records and ask for eyewitnesses in order to put together a strong case.

Exempt vs. Non-exempt Employees:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California Law require that employees be paid at or above the minimum and receive overtime pay and missed meals and breaks. In order to avoid this, some employers will classify an employee as exempt by paying them a salary or as an independent contractor. This does not automatically shield them from the law, and an employment law lawyer can help determine exempt vs. non-exempt situations. If disputes are found with a number of employees, the cases will usually be handled as class-action lawsuits.

Employers cannot steal pay from their employees. The state of California mandates that employers pay employees all money earned and owed, and for all work performed. Off-the-clock work is illegal, even if the employee agrees to it. If an employer is aware that an employee is working off the clock, they must pay the employee for that time. California also limits an employer’s ability to withhold money from an employee’s paycheck.

Contact an attorney if you suspect the following from your employer:

  • Stolen vacation time
  • Failure to furnish accurate statements
  • Unauthorized deductions from paychecks
  • Illegal deductions
  • Paycheck issues
A wage and hour lawyer can help you with any questions you may have about unlawful employer pay practices and let you know if your employer is engaging in wage theft. 

Wage and Hour FAQs

Q. What is considered overtime work in California?

A. Overtime consists of any hours over eight hours in a single day and over 40 hours in a single workweek (defined as a seven-day period). When paying overtime, employers must pay at least one and one-half times the worker’s regular hourly rate for all hours worked over eight hours (but less than 12 hours) in a single day and over 40 hours in a single workweek. For example, if an employee’s hourly rate is $15.00, that employee’s hourly overtime rate is $22.50. Additionally, employers must pay employees two times the employee’s regular hourly rate for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in a single workday and for all hours worked on a seventh consecutive day of work.

Q. How long do I have to bring a wage claim?

A. The law typically allows both current and former employees to go three years back in time to recover their unpaid wages and penalties. In California, by bringing an unfair business practice claim, employees can actually go back four years in time to recover those unpaid wages and penalties. However, it is very important that you contact an attorney as quickly as possible, since the four-year period counts back as of the date your lawsuit is filed. So, the longer you wait, the more of your unpaid wages you potentially give up.

Q. How do I know if I have a wage and hour claim?

A. Not all attorneys are familiar with employment and wage and hour laws, so you need to be sure to hire a lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of the California Labor Code.

Q. Is it legal for my employer to provide me with “comp time” instead of paying me overtime?

A. No. Providing employees with “comp time” (or compensatory time) in lieu of overtime pay is not legal. This is because the practice results in the employee only being paid their regular rate of pay for overtime hours. If your employer gives you “comp time” instead of overtime pay, you may have a failure to pay overtime claims against your employer.

Q. Do I need to have proof of my unpaid wages or hours worked?

A. Yes. However, California law requires employers to maintain records of hours worked by employees, and to retain them for at least three years. If the employer has not maintained those records, it would be helpful for you to have records showing the exact hours worked. If the you do not have those records, you will have to provide a reasonable estimate the number of hours you worked, which the employer must have substantial proof to contradict if they challenge the estimate.

Q. How do I know if I am misclassified?

A. Employers commonly misclassify workers as salaried, exempt employees to save money on overtime pay. However, those employees do not always fit into the exemptions recognized by California law. Since California’s wage and hour laws protect workers from being improperly classified, it is highly likely that unless you fit within the very narrow exceptions to the overtime rules, you are probably owed overtime compensation.

Q. My employer is refusing to give me my final paycheck until I sign a severance agreement. Is this legal?

A. No. Your employer cannot require you to sign any severance agreement in exchange for providing your final paycheck, or condition payment of your final wages on anything else.

Q. Can my employer fire me if I bring a claim against them for unpaid wages?

A. No. Your employer cannot legally fire you for suing them or making complaints of nonpayment of wages. California law makes it illegal to discriminate or discharge an employee because they complaint of improper payment of wages or file a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages.

Q. I agreed to work off-the-clock to finish my shift. Does that mean my employer does not have to pay me for that time?

A. No. California law provides that employees are entitled to be paid minimum wage and overtime compensation, eve if they have agreed to work for a lesser wage. Therefore, even if you agreed to work off-the-clock (without pay), your employers is still required to pay you for that work.